What Will Work Look Like in 10 Years’ Time?

by Nicholas Edwards on May 18, 2018

Change is nothing new. Just a couple of decades ago, we used clunky desktop computers and monitors that were deeper than they were wide. Offices had bulging filing cabinets from floor to ceiling, and mobile phones were literally just mobile phones.

Fast-forward twenty years and we use sleek laptops and dazzlingly thin monitors. Everything is stored digitally or in the cloud, and smartphones are our lifeline, instantly connecting us to a world of information.

So much about work has changed. But when you really think about it, the fundamental stuff – the underlying experience of what work is actually like – hasn’t changed that much at all.

Despite the growing influence of technology, most of us still adhere to work practices dating back to the twentieth century – long commutes to the office, set working hours, the traditional top-down hierarchy, and outdated approaches to people management.

The world of work in 2028

The coming years and should see us totally rethink current work practices, fuelled by a perfect storm of new technology and changing attitudes. In many cases, the wheels of change have already started to roll, and the next ten years will simply see existing technologies realise their potential.

But the future of work will not be shaped by technological advancements alone. During the next ten years, innovation will be coupled to a change in ethos, where work is designed to suit individuals, not the other way round.  

Changing attitudes

Despite the influence of technology, we are working harder and longer than ever before. The result is that work fails to meet our needs and expectations, which in turn has led to wide-scale disengagement. To many, their professional lives are considered separate to their private lives, with most people finding it difficult to balance the two.

There are some signs of change, however – employees increasingly expect interesting benefits packages, modern office spaces, and a degree of flexibility. But for many, work is still seen as something that takes from their lives rather than gives.

The next ten years will see us take a more employee-centric approach to work, where individuals are given the freedom to work in ways that suit them, crafting their jobs to suit their skills and working style. The result will be a more engaged workforce, as our work enhances and energises our lives.

The role of technology

If our changing attitudes are the ‘why’ of change, technology will be the ‘how’. Until now, technology has completely changed the way we work and connect with one another, but it has failed to liberate us from repetitive tasks – we still spend a huge proportion of our time writing and replying to emails, for example. In many cases, current technology is a distraction, filling our lives with an endless stream of noise.

The next ten years will see technology free us from the burden of repetitive tasks, allowing us to focus on doing better, more valuable and personally rewarding work. Chatbots will act as our own personal assistants, answering our queries and responding to messages on our behalf. Analytics will play an important role in understanding what motivates and engages individuals, helping us to make better, more human decisions. For the first time, technology will act as a true catalyst for employee engagement.

Autonomy and flexibility

Individuals will increasingly move away from full-time employment and towards short-term, project-based work, as the gig economy continues to grow.

Job stability will no longer be desirable or realistic; instead, we will sign up for ‘tours of duty’ – contracts with defined lengths and goals – and develop a broad network of professional contacts.

This reflects a changing set of values and priorities, where people prefer autonomy and flexibility to the restraints of a nine-to-five existence. The goal will not be lifetime employment, but lifetime employability.

Flatter structures

Remote working will become the norm, giving organisations access to a global talent pool. Teams will be quickly assembled and disassembled for projects, as collaboration becomes key to success.

The traditional organisational hierarchy, where authority and power are concentrated in the hands of a few, will be replaced by flatter, self-organising structures, where each individual is given the authority to make the necessary decisions to get the job done. As a result, there will be no more need for the traditional manager-employee dynamic.

Changing business models

In the future of work, traditional business models will be replaced by more streamlined, agile and innovative setups. In fact, this is already happening.

Start-ups like Airbnb and Uber have managed to disrupt the market, becoming two of the biggest companies in their respective industries, despite not owning a single hotel room or taxi.

Another example is mobile network operator Giffgaff, which doesn’t employ a single customer services operative. Instead, it uses a network of customers to answer queries online, who then receive ‘payback points’ that they can exchange for cash via PayPal.

How will these changes come about?

The adoption of new technology and work practices will be pioneered by start-ups and forward-thinking organisations. Larger, more traditional organisations may be slower to accept the inevitable, and those that fail to embrace change will struggle to survive.

Changing demographics will also be key a factor. As younger generations gain more influence, the world of work will naturally become more susceptible to change – particularly to the use of new tech.

Automation will change the nature of work, and some jobs will cease to exist – this process has already started, from car manufacturing to self-service checkouts. But just as jobs in SEO and social media didn’t exist twenty years ago, technology will create whole new areas of work.

Change is inevitable

For too long, we have approached work in a blinkered fashion, continuing to adhere to outdated work practices that are no longer suitable. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With technology acting as an enabler for positive change, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves: is this really the best way of doing things? If the answer is no, then change is not only necessary, it is inevitable.

Join the revolution

At People First, we’ve built a revolutionary software platform designed to enable a better, more human way of working. We have achieved this by aligning cutting-edge technology with forward-thinking ideas around the future of work.

Using the science of flow, AI, bot technology and people analytics, People First puts employee engagement and wellbeing at the heart of work. This is designed to support a new alliance between employer and employee, where both parties approach work as equal partners – this, we believe, is the future of work.